Big Trouble in Little China (1986)

Posted by on Jan 2, 2012 in My Childhood | 0 comments


Disclaimer: Strong language, violence, sexual references, and Kurt Russell (alpha male sexism). Most parents probably wouldn’t be OK with this one.

“When some wild-eyed, eight-foot-tall maniac grabs your neck, taps the back of your favorite head up against the barroom wall, looks you crooked in the eye and asks you if you paid your dues, you just stare that big sucker right back in the eye and remember what ole’ Jack Burton always says at a time like that. ‘Have you paid your dues, Jack?’ ‘Yes sir, the check is in the mail.’ ”

This CB radio monologue, delivered by Kurt Russell, sums up the awesomeness of this movie perfectly. Russell is the cocky badass (a role he mastered throughout the 80s) Jack Burton who wages war with a seedy spiritual ninja underground of San Francisco Chinatown, as molded by the incomparable John Carpenter (Halloween, The Thing).

The film, with a title literally Trouble2translating as “Evil Spirits Make a Big Scene in Little Spiritual State,” tracks the uprising of an immortal Chinatown villain named David Lo Pan (James Hong), who needs a Chinese girl with green eyes to restore his youth. With his troupe of bad guys in red turbans (not black 10-gallon hats) and three supervillains known as the three storms, Lo Pan hopes to end his reign as the world’s oldest man (2,000 years running). The three storms carry special characteristics: one has impenetrable strength, another is a master swordsman, and the third can harness the power of lighting. When my brother and I were youngsters, we would reenact the three storms with fake weapons and laundry baskets on our heads.

Jack and his friend Wang Chi (Dennis Dun) become entangled in this battle of good and evil when Jack’s truck (not horse) and Wang’s green-eyed girl (not horse) are stolen.

“OK, you people sit tight, hold the fort, and keep the home fires burning,” Burton says. “If we’re not back by dawn, call the president.”

The rest of the film is a battle-filled Trouble3adventure to retrieve them, with the help of some good guys in yellow turbans (not white 10-gallon hats), Jack’s love interest Gracie Law (Kim Cattrall, also with green eyes), and some other minor characters. Filled with gratuitous special effects (a Carpenter specialty) and Asian stereotypes (meant to be a genre homage, I’m sure), this Far East Western rocked my childhood. Critics loved the visuals, but bashed the film overall for a convoluted and often misled plot. As a child, even I knew that this flick fulfilled all it needed to and more to qualify as a cult B-movie.

“You just remember what ole’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big old storm right in the eye and says, ‘Give me your best shot. I can take it.’ ”

While it may not be his best shot, Carpenter sure broke the mold when he made this one. And hey, I can take it.

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